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Second Wind: Prepping a custom LeMans for a road trip

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
Most custom enthusiasts refine and tinker with their bikes. Sometimes it’s to keep them in line with changing tastes and styles. Sometimes it’s to improve performance. And other times, it’s to fix age-related issues or the ravages of time.

In the case of this sharp-looking Moto Guzzi, it was for all those reasons. It’s a 1979 LeMans III belonging to John Gauthier of the French moto site 4h10, and we first featured it six years ago.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
It’s a very different bike now though, because John uses it as his daily rider around Paris—and the original incarnation simply wasn’t practical enough.

“The previous version had an ‘endurance’ tank,” says John. “It was very long and made it quite hard to ride. So I decided to change everything. I’ve kept the work my friends originally did, and it’s now on shelves at my place.”

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
John had a huge road trip to the Italian lakes planned, so he decided to get his Guzzi into proper shape beforehand. Of course, it didn’t quite go to plan …

After deciding to change the Rickman tank, John went all in: he took the engine out of the frame and dismantled the LeMans. The motor is a powerful 1000cc upgrade over the original 850cc, but it was looking shabby—so John replaced all the fasteners, took it back to bare metal and repainted it. It’s still black, but with much higher-quality paint this time.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
After detabbing and restoring the frame, John set to work on the invisible parts that govern the reliability. “I put in an electronic ignition with high performance coils, and under the seat, made a box to contain a tiny Solise battery and a Motogadget m.unit blue.”

He also fixed an irritating glitch: “I had some issues with the electric wiring. Sometimes the bike would ‘cut out,’ and I could not figure why. With the new electrics, it now runs perfectly.”

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
John ordered the new tank from England, and it took around four months to arrive. Meanwhile, a friend in the south of France welded up a new seat pan using John’s measurements—and it fitted perfectly.

The ‘solid’ wheels are the most striking aspect of the facelift. Harley-Davidson’s Fat Boy has had solid-cast wheels for years, and it’s a style we’ve noticed creeping into the scene lately.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
The wheels on John’s LeMans probably weigh much less than Harley’s wheels though, because they’re not cast discs.

“I didn’t want ‘real’ solid wheels,” John says. “It would mean changing a lot of stuff around the brakes and the forks. And since I didn’t know how the bike would handle with them, I didn’t want to do something that would take a lot of time (and money) to remove.”

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
So John got Mojo Motorcycle to make alloy discs, and they bolted them on. “They don’t move at all, or make a sound while riding,” John is pleased to note. The trickiest part was to create and position gaps for the tire valves.

John made a new front fender to match the wheels, but hit problems with the forks, which were shortened for the original build. When riding on bumpy roads, the forks used to bottom out noisily.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
“It was a bit frightening,” John admits. “The forks are from a California, and we could not make any more modifications because there are no parts left.” The forks are also a larger diameter than the 850 LeMans originals, so John could not revert to stock.

“I tried everything—reassembling them in different ways, changing parts, but it didn’t work.” In desperation, John sent the suspension to Barnabé at the Guzzi specialist La Boutique Italienne in Visan, near Avignon.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
“I said, ‘My bike has to be ready in one month, please find a way!’ And he did. He had to adapt many different parts, and create new top covers for the fork. But now the bike sticks to the road.”

With the essentials all sorted, John went over the LeMans with a fine toothcomb, replacing small plastic parts with custom metal pieces. He installed a Motogadget speedo, tidied up the wiring and cabling, and made small but practical improvements—such as making it easy to remove the seat unit.

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
The Guzzi was finally ready for the trip to the Italian lakes, just in time. “On the highways, and the narrow mountain roads, I could really feel how good this bike is,” says John.

“The engine ran great, the ignition was perfect, and what a blast it was to feel the real power of this old Italian motor!”

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
John has clocked the Guzzi at 3.2 seconds for the 0 to 100 kph dash, and top speed is around 220 kph (136 mph). And despite this performance, the ‘solid’ wheels have not caused any problems.

“I can barely feel the difference,” says John. “And since the bike is very long—it has a California swing arm—and low, it feels just like a locomotive!”

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10
if you’re based in Europe, you’ll be able to see the Guzzi at the Midnight Garage Festival being organized by 4h10. That’s in Paris during the first weekend of October.

“There’ll be plenty of good stuff,” John promises. “Cafe racers, flat trackers, custom adventure bikes, choppers and 90s sport bikes. Plus pop-up stores from all around the world, food made by French chefs … and Lucha Libre fights!”

4h10 | Facebook | Instagram | Static and Italy images by David Marvier | Paris action shots by Bike Style Story

Custom Moto Guzzi 850 LeMans III by 4h10

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